My most important artist’s tool

What’s my most important artist tool? What can’t I live without? There are several; the most important two may surprise you.

My Bernina 570 QE…

It’s easy to make stitched fiber art when you have a great machine!

One of my most important artist tools is my sewing machine, a Bernina 570 QE (Quilter’s Edition). I do a LOT of stitching on my textured fiber paintings, so my sewing machine is an obvious choice. It’s a practical tool. And it’s necessary.

The sewing machine is one of the first tools I learned how to use as a child. As a vertically challenged human, my mother insisted I learn to sew because I was “going to need to hem things.” So she sent me to sewing lessons and I came home to use her old Singer machine to make garments. I found I didn’t like making clothes but I did find myself liking the sewing machine.

The hum as material feeds under the needle. The ability to control the speed of the stitching, which increases or decreases the vibration of that hum. These pull me to the machine.

When I first began making art quilts, before I transitioned into bright, bold, abstract textured fiber paintings, I used my mother’s old Singer. She’d given me her machine when she bought herself a Bernina. As my art improved and I grew more convinced my calling was to create art, I too upgraded to a newer machine, also a Bernina, the Artista 180, a model Bernina no longer makes. It was a great machine and I still have it.

A couple years ago, however, I decided it was time for another, one with a wider throat area, which is the area between the needle and the machine body itself. The wider the area, the easier it is to move large rolls and folds of material through. To stitch my textured fiber paintings, I can’t just keep them flat the whole time. My work measures roughly 2’ x 3’, so I have to roll the layers like a burrito to fit it all under the machine. A bigger throat area helps with this.

The original Singer had very few stitch choices and no fancy feet. My Bernina has hundreds of stitch choices and lots of fancy feet. And yet, most of the time, I use one straight quilting stitch and one particular foot that allows me to stitch in all that texture just the way I like it. It’s not the bells and whistles that make it one of my most important tools. It’s that it has exactly the bell and whistle I need.

My empathy and intuition…

Morning walks help me to connect to two of my other most important tools.

While my sewing machine is an important artist tool for me, it’s not the most important. That designation goes to my spiritual tools — my empathy and my intuition and the way they work together.

I create feelings out of fiber as bright, bold, abstract textured fiber paintings. To create a feeling, I have to feel it. This calls for empathy. I’ve certainly felt all of the feelings I’ve created to date, but I find, when I can tap into the universal collective and use my empathy, I can dive deeper into the feeling I’ve chosen to create by accessing the collective energy around that feeling.

This empathetic connection lets me see the feeling, like a really colorful and fluid version of the Matrix. The vision that channels through me shows the feeling as radiating and undulating waves of energy.

Before I dive into the universal collective to feel the feeling, my intuition helps me choose the feeling that most needs expression at a particular time. After I’ve channeled the vision of that feeling through my empathy, my intuition comes back into play to help me take what I’ve seen in my heart and turn it into a visible, tangible object. Feelings don’t have boundaries and edges, but to create them out of fiber, boundaries are necessary. My intuition chooses the boundary shape.

The energy of a feeling also doesn’t have a particular form. A feeling is waves of color and light. So I tap into my intuition to see the placement of the colored bits of fabric within the boundary that will best convey the feeling I’m creating.

These spiritual tools – empathy and intuition – are my most valued and important tools. Without them, I couldn’t feel what I feel and see what I see. Without them, I couldn’t create my art. Working IN the abstract requires me to rely ON the abstract.

Detail image of Impulsive, showing the detailed texture of the stitching created using my sewing machine and the composition for the feeling created using my empathy and intuition.

Exit through the gift shop…

I believe feelings come to teach us lessons. We get stuck when we attach to a particular feeling, when we cling to it. Through my art, I am choosing to make feelings visible so I can detach and observe the feeling. Because only through observation can we see what we are to learn and through the learning, transform.

My sewing machine does the work of building my art. My empathy allows me to connect to the feeling I’m creating. My intuition allows me to see what the feeling looks like. This combination of practical and spiritual represents the multi-dimensionality of my nature, and yours.

If you’re ready for a private (virtual) showing of my art, you can schedule an appointment here.

To discuss commissioning me to make a textured fiber painting specifically for you or someone you love, please schedule an exploratory commissioning conversation and we’ll see what we can create together.

If you liked what you read (or watched if you chose the video), please share with the one person you absolutely know would like it too!

Author: Hilary Clark

Artist, coach, poet, and writer. Creating feelings out of fiber. Aiming for modern renaissance woman. Will likely miss.

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